To the Bluecoat tonight to see the Gilad Atzmon Quartet with the Sigamos String Quartet – the last gig in his tour to promote the Gilad Atzmon with Strings project and the new album, In Loving Memory of America. Despite a late start, the result of a nine-hour journey from London, it was a really enjoyable evening. Gilad’s demonstrated superb saxophone technique, using two microphones, one of which reproduced the studio echo from the original Charlie Parker with Strings recordings which were the inspiration for this project. I like the stripped-down, less schmalzy sound that comes from using just a string quartet.  All the musicians were excellent, with Frank Harrison notably shining in then second half, once he’d been given a proper sound level.

The highlight of the evening was actually the performance of an older number, off the 2007 Refuge album, ‘Burning Bush’, which Gilad introduced by saying he had tried to imagine Charlie Parker if he had ‘been born in Bagdhad or Kabul, one of those places that America had flattened’. Also excellent was the beautiful, noirish ‘Laura‘. Gilad was highly entertaining between numbers, and when he introduced the musicians, telling an elaborately fanciful story to introduce violinist Ros Stephen (who had instigated the strings project) involving Gilad being shot down in flames returning from a bombing raid over Germany and being rescued and nursed to recovery from terrible injuries for 40 years by Ros, from whom he learned to play the saxophone by watching her play the violin!

When I was seventeen, as I was preparing myself to join the Israeli army, the unexpected happened.  On an especially cold Jerusalem night I heard Bird playing ‘April in Paris’ on a radio programme…It was that moment when I fell in love with jazz, it was that moment when I fell in love with America. ..This album is a tribute to America’s greatest heroes.  The people who have been liberating themselves through beauty…

Gilad Atzmon with the Sigamos String Quartet

Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel in 1963 and had his musical training at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem (Composition and Jazz) A multi-instrumentalist he plays Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Clarinet, Sol, Zurna and Flutes. Until 1994 he was a producer-arranger for various Israeli Dance & Rock Projects, performing in Europe and the USA playing ethnic Jewish soul music. Highly involved in the Israeli musical scene he recorded for ‘Ofra Haza’ , Yeuda Poliker and many others. He also toured with Memphis Slim and supporting many international jazz names such as Jack De Johnette, Michel Petrucciani, Richie Byrach and many others.

Coming to the UK in 1994, Atzmon recovered an interest in playing the music of the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe that had been in the back of his mind for years. He founded the Orient House Ensemble in London and started re-defining his own roots in the light of political reality. Since then the Orient House Ensemble has toured all over the world.The Orient House Ensemble includes Asaf Sirkis on Drums, Yaron Stavi on Bass and Frank Harrison on keys. Over the years Gilad Atzmon’s music has moved more and more towards a cultural hybrid. As a bandleader and reed player he has been amazing his listeners with his powerful personal style that combines great bebop artistry and Middle-Eastern roots in a sophisticated, sometimes ironical manner. Influenced by Coltrane’s powerful approach on the sax, Gilad’s live performances are simply breathtaking and overwhelming.

As a member of the Blockheads, Gilad has also recorded and performed with such as Ian Dury, Robbie Williams, Sinead O’Connor and Paul McCartney. Gilad has also recorded with Robert Wyatt, the Waters Boys and many others. In 2007 Gilad extended his role as a Producer, working with outstanding singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie to produce her debut album released recently.

Gilad Atzmon with Strings in rehearsal

Gilad Atzmon with Strings: Hull Jazz Festival 2008


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